National Wine Awards of Canada 2014 – Winery Of The Year
by Anthony Gismondi
The first time David Lawrason and I announced the winner of the Canadian Winery of the Year back in 2001 we couldn’t have been more excited. We had spent a week blind tasting 528 wines with eight judges in the attic of the Royal York Hotel and we were over the moon with what we had accomplished in a country where few people were talking local wine let alone drinking it.
Fast forward to 2014. Earlier this summer nineteen judges holed up in the Penticton Lakeside Resort in the heart of British Columbia wine country to taste 1335 wines from across the country and after a week of tasting and re-tasting the best of the 2014 we are equally excited to announce the WineAlign 2014 Canadian Winery of the Year: Peller Estates Niagara .
Consistency is the greatest attribute of any winery and throughout the week the Peller family wines consistently came to the top in round after round as we whittled down the best wines in the country. They also displayed amazing diversity grabbing a platinum medal (the top 1%, only 14 chosen from 1,335 entries) for their 2012 Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc and followed that up with four gold medals for: 2012 Private Reserve Gamay Noir Carlton Vineyard, 2013 Private Reserve Rosé, 2011 Signature Series Merlot and 2012 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Peller Estates win as Winery of the Year marks a certain maturation of the Canadian wine industry” says the Nationals co-chief judge David Lawrason. “When the country’s largest family owned winery takes the country’s top prize, you know the faith in and commitment to Canadian wine is complete”.
Ontario’s Peller Estates is the flagship VQA brand of Andrew Peller Limited, which also owns Trius and Thirty Bench in Ontario, as well as Calona Wines, Sandhill and Red Rooster and Peller in British Columbia, along with Wayne Gretzky Winery in both Niagara and the Okanagan. Established in 1991, Peller Estates is part of Andrew Peller Limited, the largest Canadian-owned winery in the country that has been producing wines for over 50 years.
“I haven’t felt this good since the Leafs won the Stanley Cup! Everyone in our Peller family is thrilled that our winemakers at Peller Estates have been recognized for their relentless pursuit of quality and commitment to making great tasting wines,” said John Peller, Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Peller Limited.
“I really wish my grandpa could be here to celebrate this award with everyone… he would be so proud. Congratulations to our winemaker Katie Dickieson and her team at Peller Estates who continue to aspire to this dream and consistently produce award winning wines that rank with the best in the world,” he added.
When I starting writing about wine in the mid-eighties” Mr. Lawrason remembers, “Peller wasn’t all that concerned with 100% Ontario-grown wine. That began to change when third generation John Peller became CEO in 1995. In 2001, the same year that Mission Hill Family Estate Winery took home the first Canadian Winery of the Year, Peller Estates opened a showpiece cellar and restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I recall some great dinners and tastings there at the hands of chef Jason Parson s and former winemaker Lawrence Buhler, especially when we delved into the aged Peller Estates signature series reds.”
Ottawa-based judge Janet Dorozynski suggests, “What we are seeing at Peller Niagara is the result and culmination of recent years of hard work and the addition of Craig MacDonald as Senior Winemaker. McDonald, who was at Creekside before and originally from Australia, has been responsible for a new direction and emphasis placing a large importance in terms of quality table wines at both Peller and Trius and has definitely pushed the boundaries in terms of single vineyard wines, wild yeast ferments, with a focus on gamay that was well rewarded by the judges.”
Katie Dickieson is the current Peller winemaker, taking over since June 2012. “I remember tasting her very first efforts at an event in Toronto’s Liberty Village in 2013, recalls Mr. Lawrason, and I was impressed.” Ms. Dickieson, a graduate of food sciences at Guelph University first worked with Peller wineries in Ontario and B.C. in 2006. Since then she has worked at two wineries in New Zealand and at Domaine du Monteillet, Vignobles Montez in the Rhone Valley of France.
Icewine remains Peller’s flagship and focus in terms of domestic and in particular international sales and marketing, though I get the sense there is increased interest on the part of the winemaking team in terms of table wine and the desire to highlight and show Canadians and the global market what Niagara can do both in terms of Icewine and table wines. Winning Canada’s Winery of the Year in 2014 will now help them to sell their wines wherever they like.
Next Wednesday, August 6th we will release all of the results of the WineAlign 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada, you can expect more surprises as we uncover myriad results from “The Nationals”, the country’s most comprehensive wine competition since 2001.
The WineAlign 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada employs a comprehensive and high quality judging process. The following video provides a behind the scenes glimpse of Canada’s largest wine awards.
Link to Peller Estates.